Mortal Kombat 1 Review – Blood-Soaked and Brilliant

Mortal Kombat 1 Review

A pillar of the genre, Mortal Kombat is not afraid to take risks with each release. Whether it’s fighting stances or suit modifications, Ed Boon introduces new elements so that every iteration is distinct. With MK1, not only has NetherRealm performed a reset on the complex lore of the universe, but they have also added new combat elements that help to make this the finest fighter in the franchise’s history.

Following on from the events of MK11’s Aftermath expansion, the Fire God, Liu Kang creates a new timeline to right the wrongs of the past. With a clear goal in mind, he ventures on a journey to recruit and train fighters to tackle an upcoming threat. The reset allows NetherRealm to reimagine iconic characters and tell new and interesting tales. Previously bitter rivals, Sub-Zero and Scorpion are now brothers, fighting for the Lin Kuei. While they are part of the same group, their viewpoints on matters differ, giving an interesting dynamic to their partnership.

From the Beginning…

As you join the characters from the beginning, it’s a thrill to see their origins and experience how they evolve into more familiar versions of themselves. Witnessing the anguish that resides within Mileena, the tragedy that surrounds Kenshi Takahashi and the playful rivalry between Kung Lao and Raiden help to flesh out the characters. As each person gets their own chapter, for a moment they get the spotlight. Not only does this help build their personality but it also adds a lovely pace to the game. Each segment is well written with a mixture of comic relief, action and heartache. Due to the combination of these aspects, you become much more invested in the world which helps to make this not only the best campaign in the franchise but also the best in the genre.

In addition to the epic story, Mortal Kombat 1 includes Invasion, a board game-style, RPG mode. You will move through an area, take part in small challenges and eventually escape. Fights tend to include some type of modifier which makes fights differ. This could include additional hazards, elemental effects and much more. In order to counter these, you can equip items that you collect on your journey through the realm. This adds a layer of strategy as you have to prepare for each battle. 

Take a Roll

While most missions are traditional fights, there are also mini-games dotted throughout. New activities include events like hurdling projectiles to stay alive and classics like Test Your Might also return which adds variety to the adventure. As you progress, you will level up your stats, earn coins and unlock some of the obscene number of items. Most rewards link to the character you select which gives the incentive to re-play segments with other characters to acquire cosmetic items. You can also exchange coins earned from any game mode at the Shrine which will reward you with a random item. You can equip these and customize your favorite character’s appearance which adds an element of personalisation.

The Invasion mode features seasons which is due to be updated every six week. Each reset promises to include new challenges and rewards. As you can blast through the story mode in a couple of sittings, it’s great to see that NetherRealm is committed to adding more content for players rather than relying on multiplayer aspects for longevity. 

Although this is a soft reboot, the gameplay is an evolution of its predecessor. NetherRealm’s signature style is evident which means you will instantly get to grips with the combat, however, nuances improve existing systems and the addition of Kameos broadens offensive and defensive options. Before a fight, you will need to select an assist character that can jump in at key moments to change the direction of the match. With a press of a single button and a directional input, the character will enter the fray and unleash an attack. The timing of this is vital. You can use it to extend and link combos but also to interrupt your opponent’s and get back on the offensive.

Time to Tag In

Kameos also join in with the impressive Fatal Blows. As visceral and disturbing as ever, both of your fighters combine to inflict insane levels of damage. The impact of each attack is magnified through its visuals that literally show the bones of your opponent breaking and their ligaments rupturing. There is now more variety with this as the Fatal Blow changes with your Kameo character. As a result, you’ll never get tired of the gruesome maneuver and will want to experiment with each assist fighter to see them all.

Air combat has never really been a key feature of the franchise. Adept players would often wait for those to jump in and simply connect with a massive uppercut. While you can still get your jaw taken off, there is more reason to take to the skies in the latest version of the game. You can easily launch players and perform slick and stylish air combos. This opens up a ton of new possibilities on how you can merge combos from the ground to the sky.

Like any fighter, there’s a learning curve that can often put new players off. Luckily, Mortal Kombat 1 has one of the best tutorials in the genre. You can quickly switch from a demonstration of the technique and an attempt with one button. This makes learning much easier and will make you feel like a pro in no time. There are also a number of stages to this which steadily build your skills. After perfecting those aspects, you can then take on character-specific challenges to master a particular fighter. Timing prompts appear on combos and positioning hints for fatalities to make this an exemplary training mode.

A Familiar Climb

The classic Towers mode makes a return with five different options to tackle. Upon completion, you can experience more of the character’s tale which is told through narration and wonderful still images. With local, online and tournament multiplayer, MK1 includes an unrivaled amount of content that will keep you hooked for years.

Everything in the game looks stunning. The depth in environments is jaw-dropping. Smoke subtly rises to the heavens and rays of light shine down to make intricate patterns that contrast with bloody, violence that is happening in front of it. Pre-match banter with characters adds cinematic flair to fights and perfectly sets up the rivalry. Some people may not be a fan of the reinterpretation of classic personalities, however, each one has been designed with incredible attention to detail. These aspects culminate with some of the most original and goriest Fatalities in the franchise.

Mortal Kombat 1 refines and improves on its solid foundation to deliver a devastating tag-team blow. The Kameo system opens up new possibilities which allows you to experiment with offensive and defensive maneuvers. In terms of single-player content, the story mode kicks ass and Invasion gives you the incentive to keep playing. With its solid online net code and wonderful tutorial, Mortal Kombat 1 is a flawless victory.

***A PlayStation 5 key was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Slick Combat
  • Kameos Adds a Ton of Options
  • Cinematic Story Mode
  • Invasion Mode is a Blast

The Bad

  • Some May Not Like Character Reinterpretations
  • Can Be Daunting For Newcomers